“This is an economy based on connection. Can you be heard, can you connect, can you be trusted?” – Seth Godin
There are 3 options when you have an online meeting with colleagues, your team or a client –turn the camera on, have a profile photo of yourself or have your initials in the black block.
What is your default choice?
I was invited to participate in a team building session for a client and what surprised me the most was how apart from myself and the other facilitator, everyone else had their cameras off. The objective of the session was connection and to develop a deeper understanding of each other but no one truly showed up.
I know bandwidth can be a factor and could prohibit you from turning the camera on – but let’s put this possibility aside and assume you have the choice.
I want to challenge you to dig a little deeper – why are you really not turning on the camera and hiding behind a manicured profile photo? It may not feel like you are hiding but think about what message you are sending to your client, colleague or team when you don’t show up for them in person. Here are some key questions to reflect on that will hopefully convince you to turn the camera on:
Are you showing up to yourself?
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ― Brené Brown
Life is pretty hectic at the moment, I get that. When you have so much to get done, it is very tempting to neglect the ‘less important’ stuff to save some precious minutes especially in the mornings. So you figure, it’s easier not to make an effort cause no one has to know – I can just turn the camera off.
Does this sound vaguely familiar?
This seemingly innocent decision can impact the trajectory of your day not only in your actions but in your headspace and self-talk.
I’m not suggesting you get dressed up to the nines and ladies put on full make up every day but by not making an effort for yourself, the message you project to yourself is that you you’re not worth it. It says ‘everyone else is more important than me’.
Could your reluctance to turn the camera on be an alarm bell to reconsider your self-care routine?
Are you neglecting yourself and putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own?
Investing time and energy into yourself is not just about getting dressed up but also sets your intention and head-space for the day. My kids have to wear their school uniform every day for their online lessons at home because this puts them in the right mind-set. It gives them a context for where they need to focus their energy, time and attention. It distinguishes play time from school time. We don’t have a different physical environment but we can give them a different mental one based on how they show up for the day.
When I have an online meeting, I always make an effort to show up as if I was meeting them in person. It is important for me to set my intention of who I want to be for the meeting and how I want to operate for the day. The act of showing up prepared for the day keeps me in alignment in my actions but also ensures I stay at the top of my to-do list.
Have you considered the possible impact on your personal brand?
“If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you” – Zig Ziglar
If you still aren’t convinced it’s worth turning the camera on and think I’m being dramatic – think about the message you are projecting to your team, clients and colleagues. Don’t under estimate the power of a personal brand and every medium is a touch point for how you communicate your brand.
Not showing up will probably prompt some assumptions in their mind about whether you did in fact bother to prepare for the meeting and why you are hiding behind a picture. For me, it’s the equivalent of not including a photo on your LinkedIn profile – I immediately question why are they hiding? Why are they not prepared to show who they are? This is the trust economy – I want to know who you are in order to start to build a relationship.
How do you develop trust if you aren’t prepared to arrive in person even if you already have established relationships with the team and clients? The epidemic within the epidemic is this constant fear of what I call ‘performance anxiety’. There is this underlying sense of panic of not being perceived as productive which results in this ‘always on’ working around the clock. This simple gesture of arriving in person at the meeting demonstrates your commitment.
I often wonder whether someone doesn’t turn the camera on because they would rather be multi-tasking and checking their emails or surfing the web. It’s like someone bringing a laptop into a training session – automatically I question the person’s dedication and true intention for the session. Are they there to learn and grow or is it just another opportunity to get other work done at the same time?
When it comes to a personal brand, consistency is key. You can’t be one personality in person, a different one on LinkedIn and then completely altered on Facebook. Similarly, understand that by differentiating your actions in person and online could potentially sabotage you more than you realise. Use this time as an opportunity to demonstrate consistency in your actions and build trust.
Are you bringing your full self to work?
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ― Brene Brown
If you opt not to show yourself in online meetings, it begs the question – are you bringing your whole self to work? Covid-19 has created an opportunity to shine a spotlight on this. Why are you really not showing yourself – is it because you inherently believe you need to be someone else for your team?
It could uncover a layer of self-doubt that you need to review – what are you believing about yourself? Do you feel you need to be someone else at the office and a different person at home? Are you placing unrealistic expectations on yourself of who you think you need to be?
Ask yourself – am I bringing my full self to my professional journey?
Why or why not? · What can you start to bring forth that you may have been minimizing?
In order to contribute your unique value, you need to bring your full self into every interaction whether in person or remotely.
Are you missing out of an opportunity to truly connect?
“We build too many walls and not enough bridges” – Unknown
In order for a true conversation to take place, two elements are required – attention and intention. You could be chatting to a friend but on your phone or multi-tasking and aren’t truly present with them. Intention is a powerful ingredient to add before your conversation – it is exploring what you want to achieve out of the conversation and how you want the other person to feel as a result of having the conversation.
When you don’t have the opportunity to look someone in the eye, you are missing out on the opportunity to truly connect and give them your full attention. 70% of a message is conveyed in the non-verbal language – what you are not saying.
Consider how a misunderstanding can happen when the non-verbal is not taken into account. If you can’t see the other person’s face and miss the eyebrow raise or eyes rolling back or frown – you have missed some vitally important feedback. They may be saying one thing with their words but everything else is sending a totally different message.
How can you demonstrate to the person you are truly listening when you don’t have eye contact or equally they cannot see your expressions? Are you really listening or are you surfing the web while on the call to ‘double up’ on productivity?
People want to feel heard and understood; it is challenging enough working remotely during Covid-19 so why further distance yourself instead of building stronger ties and developing the relationship further. Do not underestimate the power of a simple smile.
‘If you’re not branding yourself, you can be sure others do it for you.’ – unknown
The next time you have an opportunity for a team meeting or any meeting online for that matter – please turn the camera on.
This is not about showing up perfect or trying to impress anyone – it is allowing yourself to be human and show your true self. So what if your office is your kitchen and dining room combined! We all have kids in the house who conveniently want to have a tantrum during our meeting or pets who run across the screen during an important call. This is a chance to bring people into your world and show them who you truly are.
Lockdown and working remotely has provided some unexpected gifts: the necessity to be vulnerable to deepen connections and a means to demonstrate true self-leadership in times of uncertainty. In order to lead others, you need to be leading you first and that’s how you create a powerful personal brand. This simple tweak of turning the camera on will create a positive trajectory in your life and your relationships that will benefit you far beyond the meeting in question.
Here’s to showing up as your whole self,